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Hydrogen hybrids: Best of both worlds or flash in the pan?

Some car-makers are banking on combining plug-in hybrid and hydrogen fuel cell technologies to create plug-in fuel cell electric vehicles (PFCEVs) as a way to partially meet their carbon neutrality goals.

Why the shift towards PFCEVs?

Put simply, they address the elephant in the room of hydrogen refuelling infrastructure – specifically the lack of it. 

This has impaired the growth of the fuel cell market, which has made it difficult for FCEVs to gain traction.

By combining a battery drivetrain with a hydrogen fuel cell stack, car-makers have created the PFCEV.


  • Internal combustion engine (ICE): Burns fuel to spin a crankshaft for powering a drivetrain.
  • Battery electric vehicles (BEV): Use mains charged batteries to power an electric drivetrain. 
  • Plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEV): Use a mains charged battery to supplement the ICE or drive small distances without using the ICE. Can recharged while driving using the ICE as a generator combined with regenerative braking.
  • Extended range electric vehicles (EREV): Closer to a BEV than a PHEV. A small ICE generates electricity for supplementing the battery but does not directly drive the wheels or have enough power to recharge the battery while driving.
  • Hybrid electric vehicles (HEV): Often called ‘self-charging hybrids’ HEVs are similar to PHEVs but with a smaller battery capacity and no plug-in option.
  • Mild hybrid electric vehicles (MHEV): Use a small battery and motor-generator connected to the engine to mildly assist performance and recoup charge when braking. Cannot run on electricity alone.
  • Fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEV): Use compressed hydrogen and oxygen from the air to generate electricity inside a fuel cell stack that powers an electric drivetrain. Cannot drive on battery alone. 
  • Plug-in fuel cell electric vehicles (PFCEV): Combine the features of a FCEV with a BEV.

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